The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a tough loss against the Arizona Cardinals. Despite head coach Mike Tomlin never ending the season with a losing record, the now 7-5 are firmly on the playoff bubble. They head into Week 14, sitting in second place in the AFC North and the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture.
The Steelers have benefitted from the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns losing their respective starting quarterbacks, and it felt like Pittsburgh controlled its own playoff destiny. Their final six games looked like they had four very winnable games and then two tough ones to end the year. That has been shaken up as their easiest remaining game was in Week 13 against the then two-win Arizona Cardinals at home. There were weather delays and injuries, but still, the Steelers lost at home, 24-10.
Still, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with -150 odds at DraftKings Sportsbook. They should be favored further, but after losing to the team with the third-worst record in the league, their playoff chances could be hanging by a thread.
Pittsburgh’s game against the Patriots could end with fewer than 10 points scored. The Steelers will be without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett, who had surgery on his ankle and is expected to be sidelined until at least Week 16. New England hasn’t allowed more than 10 points per game three weeks in a row but lost each game.
The Colts are 7-5 after an overtime win in Week 13 against the Tennessee Titans. Starting running back Jonathan Taylor could be back for this matchup, but it comes on the early side of his projected return window. The Steelers should have the advantage on defense, but if Mitch Trubisky looks awful against New England, Pittsburgh may struggle on the road in this matchup.
Pittsburgh already faced the Joe Burrow-less Bengals team and picked up the 16-10 win on the road in Week 12. It looked like the Steelers’ offense was turning a corner after firing former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, but that momentum was dashed in Week 13. Cincinnati could be at full strength outside of its quarterback, and this divisional game is far from a locked-in win for the Steelers.
The Steelers end the season with back-to-back road games. Seattle is a non-conference matchup, but when fully healthy, these teams match up pretty evenly on paper. The Seahawks have some tough games coming up, but their schedule looks easier starting in Week 16. This matchup in Week 17 could be pivotal for each team in their respective playoff races.
The Week 18 matchup is going to be an intriguing one. Baltimore has recently struggled against Pittsburgh, but the Ravens could already be locked into their respective playoff seed by the time the game rolls around. If Baltimore gains nothing by winning this matchup, We could see Lamar Jackson take a seat, which could be just what the Steelers need to get in the postseason.
Final record prediction: I think what their record should be and will be is going to end up being different. I’m going with 11-6 with wins over the Patriots, Colts, Bengals and Ravens, but the recent loss to Arizona makes me question what this team can do, especially if Trubisky is a downgrade from the already poorly-playing Pickett. I can see this team finishing 11-6 just as easily as I can 8-9,
AFC playoff standings following loss to Cardinals
- Miami Dolphins
- Baltimore Ravens
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cleveland Browns
- Indianapolis Colts
- Houston Texans
- Denver Broncos
- Buffalo Bills
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Las Vegas Raiders
- New York Jets
- Tennessee Titans
- New England Patriots
The Steelers control their own destiny in the sense that if they win out, they will make the playoffs. The road is slippery, though, and they won’t be able to afford many losses. Using ESPN’s Playoff predictor, getting to 11-6 should be enough to squeak into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. If Pittsburgh starts dropping games, they will need help from the Browns, Texans, Bills and Broncos.
If Pittsburgh had handled business at home and beaten Arizona, it feels like this would have been an easier decision, even if Pickett had still gotten hurt. The Steelers’ defense will continue to have to step up big. Their offense needs to find any rhythm, but at least heading into Week 13, I like them to make the playoffs.